I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan is an emotionally moving novel about Sam and Riddle Border, two boys on the run, racing away from trouble their psychotic father creates in each new town they visit. But teenaged Sam does what he had never done before: he made a friend. And fell in love with her.
Emily is a beautifully composed character. In the beginning of the novel she is just plain normal: so shy she doesn’t want to sing at church; not really into the very handsome Bobby, but allows herself to be convinced she should like him; loves her family but is scared at how they will turn Sam off. But when the time comes for her to grow or collapse, she grows. Though she only goes through the motions of life, she does so with full knowledge that she is doing such. I love Emily’s honesty and her inhibited passion. I want to be friends with her.
Characters aside, the story is a fast and emotive one. Love, anger, pain, desperation, hate…the reader feels all of those due to Sloan’s lack of fluff. I found myself not skipping sentences or paragraphs, which is rare for me. And this being her debut novel says a lot.
I’d like to share a part that, I feel, really captures the writing style and tone of the book (during its less-intense parts). It also captures that moment of first meeting, of reluctance to talk because you’re afraid what will come out, of the before that you can never get back:
He said “Hey” back.
“And then they graduated to two syllables and then three and then sentences. And then whole ideas and the real expression of thought.
I will be recommending this to young adults and YA-reading adults who like novels that have both meaning and a great story.